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Tom Clyde: The eagle has landed

There’s no getting around it — the season has changed.

Monday night was as cold as a well digger’s brass monkey or something like that. I had -4 at my house, and others around the area were even colder than that. It’s not unheard of this time of year, but records were broken. With the cold, the resorts have fired up the snowmaking, and are finding water somewhere to spray on the mountain. I’m surprised there is anything left after this terribly dry summer. The river by my house is more or less dry, and has been for a couple of months. You have to hope for a big snowpack this winter, or the groundwater used to make snow could translate into a summer without showers. Still, it looks like we will get opened up for a socially distanced, plague-spreading ski season on schedule.

It’s so dry that the well at my brother’s house, a half-mile or so from mine, has gone dry. So he has a driller in to drill a new and deeper well. It’s a noisy and messy process when they are working. With the cold, they haven’t been around much. For some reason they don’t like playing in the wet when it’s below freezing.

I walked over to check it out the other day and noticed a bald eagle roosting in the dead cottonwood by the river. The eagles have used one specific branch as the lookout for at least 30 years, maybe longer. At some point, the dead tree will fall over and their whole cosmos will be disrupted. They might just move to the next dead cottonwood, though the favored location seems to provide a perfect overview of the river and any fish trying to portage around the rocks to move from one puddle to another. It must be pretty easy pickings. In the eagle world, it’s prime real estate.

People get cranky, and if there’s anything we don’t need right now, it’s one more reason to get cranky.”

When the tree finally goes over, it will make a real mess. Fences will get smashed, it could block a road, or tip into the river damming up the flow. Every spring I think it would be good to take it down before it’s a problem, but then I think about sitting at the kitchen table, eating lunch and watching eagles, and figure that’s worth the price.

When the eagles show up, it always seems early. Then I look it up, and they are right on schedule. I’ve never understood how birds set their calendars, but they are extremely regular, showing up within a day or two of the same date every year. The departures are equally scheduled. They might even be more precise than I know, since the eagle might have been perching there for a couple of days before I noticed it.

Everything is connected to everything else. The potgut squirrels hibernate very early in the year, leaving the red tail hawks to scrounge up a meal before they give up and move on. The sage grouse, fat, slow birds that can barely fly, are here all year. They completely vanish in the summer months. Then in October, they are all over the yard and driveway for a few weeks before they vanish again. I don’t know where they go, but there is something they like to eat that becomes available in the fall that pulls them in.

Unlike the birds, squirrels, rivers, and seasons, we can’t seem to leave things alone. We’re always fussing with the clocks. This weekend is the shift back to standard time. That means we will be getting up in the daylight (for a while anyway) and it will be dark by five. The time change always throws things off for a few days. People get cranky, and if there’s anything we don’t need right now, it’s one more reason to get cranky. We would do well to delay messing with the clocks until after the election, if you ask me.

There are always proposals to abandon the shift, and stick with either standard or daylight time year round. For years, proponents of leaving things alone have said it would be a great benefit to the farmers, especially the dairy farmers. The claim is that the cows are confused by the change. I solved that issue by taking the clocks out of the pastures. So the cows don’t know any different.

If we are going to quit fiddling with the clocks, I’d be in favor of staying on the daylight schedule year round. That’s because I don’t have a real job and don’t have to get up and at it in the dark unless I want to. So the longer it’s light in the afternoon, the better for me. And I wouldn’t miss the biannual clock adjustment. After spending about an hour trying to figure out how to change the clock in the car, I realized that it had changed by itself. How does it know? I tell you, we are surrounded by miracles all the time.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.


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